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Any Excuse to Extol the Virtues of a Cup of Tea: Microplastics!

Updated: Sep 17, 2023

Plastic is weird. We invented it and immediately became addicted.

We don't have any tea at the shop, but loose leaf tea is a great idea. I will tell you why.

As time passes, we're growing to realize how truly gunky the stuff is. Microplastics have been squirming and worming into everything, and at a similar rate they've been squirming and worming into all of us. The interwebs talk at length about the health reasons why microplastics are bad for you. They use sensationalist terms, because sensationalism attracts traffic. I am not fit to argue with the dramatic, woeful harbinging of the medical researchers claiming that microplastics are basically about to kill you. I can, however, talk about the common denominators between the gazillion bits of research I have seen.

Basically, if your body has microscopic-sized anything in it, then your body will try to use that stuff. Your body is a recycling badass, designed to consume anything from iron to sodium. Most of the periodic table of elements is something valuable to your body.

The problem is that when plastics were invented, they were almost always invented with the intent to resist natural processes like decomposition and rot and the way that bacteria breaks things down.

If a microscopic bit of plastic is knocking around in your system, your body doesn't know that crumb was created to resist being broken down. All it knows is there's some microscopic stuff in its way, so it attempts its natural process.

But your body cannot use plastic for anything

So your cells are wasting energy. That's one thing.

Another and worse thing is that in order to make a material that resisted decomposition of any kind, inventors of plastics had to resort to ever-more-toxic compounds. The reason that plastic resists decomposition, you see, is because the natural world doesn't want to eat any of that crap.

You thought it was some kind of force field thing, didn't you? (I did.) You thought it was because plastic is extra "clean" or something, and it just makes a barrier between the decomposition process outside of it and the decomposition process inside of it. The organic world is mainly composed of living microbes. The only way to create a substance that resists the natural order is by making it useless to bacteria. Not only useless but in most cases actively damaging.

Plastic is not food. And your food has trace amounts of plastics in it. Them's the facts. The rest of the facts are too complicated for this reporter to explore.

Back to the cup of tea idea.

Researchers must have been having a slow day, because they turned their attention to the innocuous subject of tea bags. A slow day or they decided to be consummately British for a moment. Whatever the case, The World of Science has discovered that tea bags of various kinds carry microplastics of various amounts.

Which does not, for a moment, suggest you should stop drinking tea. Of any kind. Drink tea! Tea is great.

The scientists behind this study have a straightforward suggestion to decrease your consumption of microplastics. It's obvious, really: loose leaf tea.

And, I can tell you, that warms my heart. I've been drinking loose leaf tea for years. Not for any reason except that I like the flavor better. Tea was always meant to be made with loose leaf. I've always thought of the tea bag as a result of The Great Generation of Hurry, which came about with the industrial revolution after the Great War (I am actually in my early thirties, by the way...thought I should mention that before I really get into my curmudgeonly thoughts about how everyone is in such a bloody rush all the time). We haven't really slowed down as a society since. And, in fact, we've actually been speeding up. You may have noticed.

In an attempt to force a little slow down into my life, I have embraced the cup of tea. In real terms, it doesn't take that much extra time. But it feels like it does. And that's more important in some ways. And I like some of the extra equipment I need to do it too. It brings a sense of occasion to what is, let's face it, a tiny indulgence anyway. I feel like I have to earn every cup of tea with my patience, and that improves the experience.

All teas--herbal, oolong, black, whatever you like--come loose leaf if you know where to look. (I'll link to a few good shops below, since we don't carry any.) My favorite is a nice black tea with a bit of cream and sugar. I was going to provide some instructions on how to make it properly. I got as far as typing some of those instructions. Then I remembered that I follow the instructions from Douglas Adams, famous for his sound travel advice and writer of The Salmon of Doubt, among other things. I'll just send you to his essay on the subject of making a proper cup of tea.

Drink your tea loose-leaf. It's better for your microbiome. It's better for your mental health. We don't carry loose leaf tea at the shop, but we agree with it as a concept. So go get some.

Oh! And tell us about it when you do.


Tea shops SORT OF near the shop:

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